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tv   The Communicators  CSPAN  June 4, 2012 8:00am-8:30am EDT

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.. >> host: and "the communicators" coverage from the cable show in boston continues in this week. up next, our interviews with two members of the federal trade
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commission. well, we want to introduce you to one of the federal trade commission's new commissioners, and this is maureen ohlhausen on your screen. a republican member of the five-member commission. maureen ohlhausen, you have been on the board for about a month, on the commission for about a month. >> guest: yes, a little over a month. >> host: what's your experience been like that? >> guest: well, it's been positive. i'm returning to the ftc. i'd been here for 12 years previously, so in a way it's a big homecoming for me but, of course, playing a different role as commissioner. i've enjoyed reconnecting with people i've known, worked with in the past, but also getting briefed on the new cases, investigations, prompts we've undertaken. >> host: what were some of your previous positions at the ftc? is. >> guest: well, i was head of the office of policy planning and then before that i'd been an attorney adviser to a commissioner, and then i'd worked in the general come's
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office when i first started. >> host: how did you get started with the ftc? >> guest: i was very fortunate when i went to law school, i had several professors who were inspiring to me in the area of antitrust. but when i graduated, i was fortunate to have a clerkship, and i enjoyed that very much. but then when i got the opportunity to start at the ftc in the general counsel's office, i made the leap over to there because i knew i wanted to practice in that area. >> host: well, we're catching up with you here in boston at the annual cable show. why are you up here? >> guest: well, i'm up here because i think there's a lot going on that the ftc is paying attention to in the communication, media spaces certainly. and so when i was head of the office of policy planning, i haded up the inter-- headed up the internet access task force, and certainly new technologies, new ways to bring services to
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consumers. so, definitely, cable plays an important role in that. >> host: what are some of those issues that you're personally concerned with or that the ftc is looking into? >> guest: some of the issues we're looking into involve privacy. certainly, that's a big issue for the ftc and consumers these days. we're also looking, you know, we always look at kind of the bread and butter issues of advertising, competitive issues, competition, pratt forms right now -- across platforms there's a big convergence right now where previous separate industries are starting to compete with each other. so to make good policy for consumers, we really need to understand what's happening in the industry and in the market. >> host: when it comes to convergence, commissioner ohlhausen, are there some concerns, do you have some personal concerns about some of the industries and the overlaps that we're seeing these days? >> guest: well, i mean, not so much concerns. i think there's great potential to increase competition for consumers when you start having, you know, previously separate
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industries competing to be the broadband provider, to be the voice provider. one of the issues that creates a little complication for the ftc is that we have a common carrier exemption to our statute, and so if some of the industries are common carriers, that can create a little bit of an issue for us to be able to address something. i mean, basically, the ftc has been able to reach a lot of areas in privacy and advertising, antitrust kind of issues, but that's something that, you know, a little more and more is becoming an issue for the ftc. >> host: now, very quickly define common carrier for viewers. >> guest: so, basically, like voice common carrier, it also includes airlines, railroads, so it's an industry that has to serve all comers, basically. now, cable service and broadband service has not been defined as a common carrier service, so that doesn't present an issue in that area. but when cable starts to compete with traditional voice common
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carrier service, kind of a complication set we need to look at. >> host: now, have there been efforts to make broadband a common carrier? >> guest: well, that's up to the fcc for the most part, and in the brand x decision, the supreme court upheld the fcc's position not -- basically, they said they were not going to classify broadband as common carrier service. >> host: where does the ftc intersect with the fcc on issues? dodo you work with the other commissioners? how does that work? >> guest: so the ftc and the fcc do work together on a number of issues, right now particularly on privacy issues. the do not call rule which the ftc played an important role in, the fcc has a role in as well. any issues involving advertising, certain billing issues, the ftc has work with the the fcc on addressing cramming issues. now, the ftc can't reach a
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common carrier, but they can reach somebody else in the chain that can be involved in cramming unauthorized charges on consumers. >> host: you've mentioned privacy a couple times, and the ftc is the lead agency when it comes to privacy. >> guest: yes. >> host: what is the status? the latest privacy report came out with the ftc, but did you sign onto it as a new commissioner? >> guest: i did not. that was issued before i came on the commission. basically, the ftc is primarily an enforcement agency and has brought in, many good cases in the consumer privacy area and has reached set almosts -- settlements about some of the privacy promises that they made to consumers and requiring them to honor those promises. and the report discussed a lot of those issues and the need for, you know, more thinking in the area of privacy. the report also included a recommendation to congress to adopt general consumer privacy legislation and, um, you know, i didn't, i didn't sign onto that, and that's an area i'd like to
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explore more fully before i would feel comfortable making a similar recommendation. >> host: now, you doesn't sign on because of the newness of your position, or because you disagree with it? >> guest: well, a little bit of both. so, um, so i, i feel the need -- while i support the ftc's enforcement in the privacy and paying attention to this issue and looking closely at it, i feel the need to sort of educate myself a little more fully on what are some of the harms that are occurring in the market that the ftc can't reach right now or that other existing statutes can't reach right now and whether, you know, how broad general policy legislation should be and, also, ftc is a competition agency. so i think we also need to take look at what could be some of the competitive effects if there are new legislation that might have an impact on the ability of competitors to, you know, reach consumers or to use information in a way to innovate and sharpen competition that way. >> host: maureen ohlhausen, what
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about do not track when it comes to online issues? we all know about the cell phone -- or the wire line phone issues when it comes to do not track, but what about when it comes to cell phones and online? where's the ftc on that issue? >> guest: the ftc is looking at that issue and has been very supportive of some of the self-regulatory efforts that are underway. there is a sort of a technology-based effort that the wc3 has been takenning, and -- taking, and i've been working with some of the members of that group, and there's also the digital advertising alliance has a large program underway, and those are some of the developments, the status that i need to educate myself on, you know, where things are, what progress has been made. but the ftc has in the report recommended that -- it didn't say whether through regulation or through self-regulation, but
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this would be a good option for consumers to have. >> host: now, one of the tenets of that report is that companies should make privacy the default. do you agree with that? >> guest: uh-huh. i think one of the tenets -- >> host: of the do not track. >> guest: well, um, it's a little more nuanced than that. i would say one of the tenets of the report is that companies should include privacy by design, so when they're coming up with products and services, they should think about the privacy implications right at the beginning. and i think that's a very good best practice for companies to undertake. if they're collecting information that they don't need or storing it in a away that's -- in a way that's not secure, that's something they need to pay attention to because consumers do care about privacy, and it would be better if privacy was considered as one of the principles at the beginning. so that's one of the things that the report has. as for whether do not track is an opt-in or opt-out issue, that really depends, i think, on
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consumers' own preferences. so whether most consumers don't want to be tracked or they don't care or they just want to have the option not to be tracked when they're doing certain activities. and that's sort of one of those things i'd like to find out more about myself. >> host: maureen ohlhausen, what issues are on the horizon for the ftc that we haven't talked about? >> guest: so, you know, the ftc, you mentioned that, you know, they're very permanent in privacy, and they kind of -- so when i was there in the '90s and one of the things they did as the internet really started to become a consumer experience, consumers used the internet a lot, the ftc got out ahead on that issue and paid a lot of attention to privacy and deception and things online. what we've seen now is that so much internet access has moved to the hand sets, to consumers accessing it over their smartphones, and that creates unique challenges for disclosures, for what kinds of information is being collected, location information, things like that.
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so the ftc, you know, needs to understand the challenges, what consumers are facing, the issues and also the benefits that online access, that the happenedset offers consumerred -- handset offers consumers. so we're doing workshops and paying attention to these issues, and i think it's important to stay ahead of the curve on what's happening. >> host: should there be different standards for wired broadband and wireless broadband? >> guest: i guess it depends on what you mean by different standards. for example, there's a challenge in the giving a disclosure on, you know, a handset has a small, the phone has a very small screen, so there might be, you know, a different way to inform consumers that you need to use in that environment. because the ftc's always paying attention to the consumers' point of view, what kind of information does the reasonable consumer need to make an informed choice. so if the technology is different, if the experience for the consumer is different, then
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that might suggest there should be somewhat different standards. i don't think that generally, you know, you have to rate a whole different set of standards for one versus the other. >> host: most people aren't lawyers, but they -- >> guest: thank god. [laughter] >> host: you are. >> guest: yes. >> host: they hit the -- do you read the user agreement, user agreements? do you read those? >> guest: um, it really depends. like, for some thing, i've certainly read it, i use gmail, and i've read it for that. i've neglected my facebook page, to be honest. it's up there, but i don't update it very much, but i did read the pryce settings for that -- privacy settings for that. for some other things, i can't say when i go on another very well-known web site when i'm purchasing a book or a cd or something like that, that i check out the privacy policy that close because i'm not particularly concerned about the information that i'm providing them and the way that it can be used. >> host: do you think there's an effort or do you think there should be an effort to simplify
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those agreements so nonlawyers can understand them a little bit better? >> guest: i think that would be a good goal for companies to pursue. you need to strike this balance between simplicity, ease of use, giving people sort of the high-level points versus, you know, some people really care about the details. and one of the things that we have in this market is kind of the learned intermediary, the consumer doesn't pay very close attention to every sort of twist and turn in a private privacy policy, so one of the ftc has suggested in another context is a sort of layered approach. get the high-level issues right at the top, the bullet points, and that can link into a many in-depth discussion for the people who really want to know the nuts and bolts of things. >> host: but not necessarily something the ftc should require? >> guest: yet to be determined whether the ftc should require it because it really all has to go back to what harms are consumers experiencing?
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if consumers are being harmed, then the ftc would need to look more closely at that. but a lot of information on, you know, financial information, medical information, things like that already has some protections, and the ftc has pursued a number of cases in those areas. so it would have to see if additional protections were necessary. >> host: speaking of medical information, the use of medical records online, is that something that the federal trade commission is working on? >> guest: so the ftc actually started paying attention to that issue a number of years ago while i was there because, you know, you have hipaa that protects a lot of medical information, but that only extended to health care providers. so when you started having services that allows consumers just to upload their medical records for ease of use and so you could transfer it easily and access it easily, there was a question of, you know, what applied there, and it turned out the ftc act was going to be the
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main, um, the main regulation there. that has been changed as people started paying more attention to that issue, so i think that the high-tech act actually addressed some of that. >> host: maureen ohlhausen, one of two republican commissioners -- >> guest: yes. >> host: three democrats presently because the president is a democrat. what's the comity level on the commission? >> guest: i think it's very good, actually. you know, for the ftc most of the work we do is unanimous, bipartisan. you know, i support a lot of the enforcement that the ftc does in these areas, but, you know, a reason that it's a multimember commission which is to have a diversity of view points. so there will be times when we might disagree on something, but we all understand, you know, respect each other's views, this is the way good policy is made, to have an open and frank discussion among policymakers. so i think that it's, actually, very functional and bipartisan agency. >> host: and when we've talked
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with members of the federal communications commission, we've talked a little bit about the sunshine laws. are you allowed to the meet with more than one commissioner? >> guest: right. so we are under the same requirements as the fcc on the sunshine act, and that can create a little, you know, it's hard to have a discussion if you can only talk to one person at a time. but there, we use attorney advisers who kind of can talk to the other offices. but in some ways it creates a little game of telephone where the message can get a little distorted. so the ftc actually does occasionally have meetings where all the commissioners get together to talk, and it's on the record, though it's not public. so that's a way we can address that. actually, we're meeting to discuss an issue, not necessarily take an action, so that is an option we can pursue. >> host: maureen ohlhausen, one of two republican commissioners on the federal trade commission joining us here at the cable
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show in boston. >> guest: great. thank you so much, peter. >> host: and now we're pleased on "the communicators" to be joined by julie brill, one of the five commissioners of the federal trade commission, a democrat. >> guest: yes. >> host: commissioner bill, if you would start by giving us a synopsis of your biography. >> guest: absolutely. and it's great to be here, so thanks for having me. i have been on the commission now two years, a little bit over two years. i was appointed by president obama, confirmed by the senate, of course. but for about 20-plus years prior to coming to the federal trade commission i was a regulator, i did state law enforcement at the state level for state attorney generals. first, i worked for over 20 years in the vermont attorney general's office, and then i worked for about 14 months in the north carolina attorney general's office. and in both positions, in both
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states i focused on consumer protection and competition, regulation and be enforcement work, and that's exactly what i get to do at the federal trade commission. so now i get to focus on all the policy issues and law enforcement issues that we did in the states, but now i get to do it on a national level. >> host: so what brings you to the cable show here in boston? >> guest: well, the cable show is one example of a forum where industry that is actively engaged in innovation, i mean, really pushing the fore front comes together and shows their stuff. they're here to show off. and i'm here to see all the wonderful ways in which industry is innovating to bring consumers new products and services and to begin to think about what issues any of these products and services might raise from from our perspective. so with respect to consumer protection and also with respect to competition issues.
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>> host: well, commissioner brill, have any issues been raised in your mind as you wander the floor here? >> guest: um, i think one of biggest issues that we see as you wander the floor is, um, how everyone is moving to the internet. everyone is going to be offering their services no longer through a box top or cable -- i mean, they will offer that, but they all are moving to what will be a very powerful platform, and a platform where consumers will really be able to access their services in any, with any mechanism that they're using, with any device that they're using. and what it says to me is that many of these large platform providers whether you're talking about a cable company or whether you're talking about, um, a social network -- they're not here, but we do a lot with respect to social media, for instance -- they're all involved in providing broad services to
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consumers, lots of information going out to consumers, but they're also potentially able to collect a lot of information about consumers. and i think that we need to as, um, law enforcement and as an entity that focuses on competition issues, we need to look at the ways in which these players are actually treating consumers the same way, gathering information, um, in a very similar way and how we want to be thinking about the competition that they're engaged in with each other and also what it might mean for consumers in terms of how they're collecting information, what information they're giving to consumers about collecting and and using personal information to show ads and things like that. a lot of issues come up for me as i walk the floor. >> host: well, there were two issues that struck me in your answer there, convergence and privacy. >> guest: yes. >> host: and if we could start with convergence. >> guest: yes. >> host: there's a current spectrum deal, something that the ftc doesn't necessarily
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deal, -- with, but there's a current deal between the cable companies and verizon. is that an issue that concerns you? >> guest: it's something that, you know, there are lots of folks in washington who are thinking about that. i'm more thinking not so much about that specific spectrum issue, although it could raise competition issues that we might want to look at. i'm thinking about, um, really the large platform providers and how they effect consumers actually in terms of the second issue that you raised, the privacy issue, and what it means for consumers to have all these different players who are kind of converging to a business model that says we're going to use consumers' information to provide them services, to help fund the services that we're providing, but we're going to be marketing to them based on their information and what does that mean. so that's the kind of convergence that i'm looking at
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in full-terms of -- in terms of from a consumer per be spective, how are consumers being treated on these entities and what we should be thinking about in that context. >> host: commissioner julie brill, the ftc -- what's the status with the google privacy issue fight? >> guest: so we are, um, in the process of, actually, with respect to google, we have finalized the consent order that came out of google's efforts, first social media effort involving google buzz which people may remember was a couple of years ago. google, essentially, took consumers' information, their e-mail context and what not and populated this first social media with consumers' contact information. consumers never expected that. a lot of private information came out of that where consumers, you know, their most frequent e-mail contacts might
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have involved a potential employer, might have involved a patient if they were a doctor, all sorts of potential deep privacy concerns. we put google under an order that requires them to develop a broad privacy program that will cover, um, google buzz, it will cover google plus, it will cover all of google's activities and services. youtube, everything. and they have to have a comprehensive privacy program, they're going to also be subject audits for the next 20 years so that an outside entity will be looking at their comprehensive privacy program. so that's the status right now of what is publicly being done to google with respect to privacy. we are always looking at new issues as they're raised, and there are always lots of issues with respect to google. >> host: now, do you see the google settlement, as it were, as a model for other companies?
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>> guest: absolutely. in fact, facebook is also, um, we've proposed a consent order with facebook that involves some of the changes it made in 2009 to its privacy policy and to how it was using consumers' information, and it very much picks up on a lot of the provisions that are in the google order. so, for instance, it too would require facebook to have a comprehensive privacy program that covers all of facebook services and be subject to outside audits for 20 years. so that order is still proposed, it hasn't been finalized yet. >> host: julie brill, self-regulation is a term we've heard around here, especially up here at the cable show. michael powell used it, a couple other industry officials. >> guest: sure. >> host: what's your view of that? >> guest: i think self-regulation can be very helpful. i think self-regulation, um, is a tool that can be much more,
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um, responsive to changes in the marketplace in a quicker way than regulation or certainly than passing laws can be. and we at the federal trade commission have actually urged certain segments of industry to engage in very robust be self-regulatory efforts. for instance, do not track is an issue that is essentially right now a self-regulatory model where we have been pushing industry to give consumers tools so that they can make choices about how their information would be used as they're traveling across different web sites or across different services on the internet. um, so that is a model, the self-regulatory model can be a very powerful one. one of the things that i look for in any, um, self-regulation context is whether or not it's robust, is it providing good protections for consumers, and is there an enforcement mechanism so that if a company
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says it's going to abide by a self-regulatory mechanism, it's not doing so, what are the consequences? will we as the federal trade commission be able to take action? if so, it looks more like a robust self-regulatory model. >> host: do you think you have the ear of congress at this time? >> guest: with respect to privacy issues, absolutely. i think it's not only our work on privacy because we've been doing a tremendous amount of work on privacy, but the administration has also raised the level of the discussion because the obama administration has come out with a big privacy report as well. so i think, yes, absolutely congress is very interested in the work that we're doing. there are many members of congress who have been long interested in privacy issues and in how consumers are treated online with respect to all these services that are collecting information about them. and i think they appreciate --
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the congressional members who have been interested in this for so long appreciate the work we've been doing. >> host: commissioner brill, wireless and wire line regulation, are they -- should they be the same? >> guest: at the federal trade commission, we take the view that we need to be technology neutral, and we need to look at things from a consumer impact perspective. so to the extent that, for instance, both wire he is and wire line or land line providers are allowing third parties to build, so the problem with cramming which everybody probably knows about, that's the problem where consumers suddenly find services on their phone bills that they maybe ordered but thought, oh, maybe had a discussion with a salesman but thought they didn't order or maybe never even heard about before. that's an inappropriate billing
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mechanism. it's called cramming. that can occur both on your land line bill and on your wireless bill. i think that kind of consumer impact needs to be dealt with in a technology-neutral way whether it's happening on a land line or it's happening in the wireless space. >> host: and this is "the communicators" on c-span, and we've been talking with ftc commissioner julie brill. "the communicators" was on location for the 2012 cable show in boston, and those were two members of the federal trade commission that we just spoke with. our coverage of the cable show continues next week. as a reminder, if you'd like to view any of "the communicators," you can go online to c-span.org/communicators. >> here's a look at what's ahead today. next, the first of two commencement addresses. you'll hear from google executive chairman eric schmidt who spoke at the university of california at berkeley followed
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by xerox chairman and ceo ursula burns who addressed the graduating class of xavier university in new orleans. then we'll have live coverage of a nuclear non-proliferation conference on iran's nuclear program and the next phase of weapon reductions between the u.s. and russia. and later, the senate's back at 2 p.m. eastern to resume debate on a bill aimed at strengthening penalties against employers who pay different wages based on gender. >> the president has a hard time selling an argument of economic optimism when he is, when at the same time people aren't feeling it. the fact of the matter is what the american people know and the way they approach this election right now is they understand that we didn't get into this crisis overnight, and we're not going to get out of it overnight. >> the question isn't what the unemployment rate is, it's what the people in quinnipiac land, ohio, florida, what they think, what they think about their

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